Sales Up 10 to 25 Percent at Book Salon

French Government Shows for First Time

Paris:- At the Salon du Livre, 25.- 27. March 1996:- One of the reasons for having a Salon du Livre - Book Fair - is to sell books. People who 'do' books are divided into two economic types: those who produce books in order to make a profit in order to publish more books; and those who 'do' books for the sake of literature.

At the salon here in Paris, in France, the two sorts that 'do' books are represented under the same roof, once a year. Otherwise, they live in two different worlds.

One thing - another one - that makes France different from other countries, is that all public attention is focused on the second category of books, the 'books for the sake of literature.'

The men and women who actually write these books are preferred if they are obscure and resolutely remain known to only a few, and the fewer the better. The largest part of the quality 'lit' business is not the writing of books, but in the writing about the books. This is a flourishing industry, heavily promoted by newspapers, magazines, television and even, radio.

The illiteracy rate in France is supposed to be high; so without going into statistics - of which I have none - once all the people who never read anything, all the people who never read anything except books reviews, or all the people who watch Bernard Pivot on TV with his carloads of authors - but don't read either; once you subtract all these 'literary' people from the book buying and reading public - what are you left with?

Well, 75 percent of all the French 15 and older read at least one book per year. Heavy readers - those who read 25 books a year - has dropped to 17 percent of the population. 'Light' readers - reading from one to nine books a year, have increased to 32 percent. In 1994, French presses pumped out 376 million books, of which 17 thousand were new titles, and 41.5 thousand were re-issues. The average press run for one book is 9000 copies; the average number returned as unsold is unknown.

A lot of the increase by the 'light' readers is due to the demands of modern society: people are buying and reading more books for the information they contain.

That said, some examples found at the salon:

Nathan Stand
Like a lot of other publishers,
Nathan is counting heavily on multimedia
- but especially for learning.
Editions Nathan

Besides the children's books, games and picture books, found in book shops, Nathan has another reading public not quite so obvious - teachers. Teachers have to read to stay in business and it is a good business because the world's knowledge is getting bigger. Teachers not only read what they teach, they read about how and what to teach.

In France, school life starts as early as age two, and is effectively only limited by one's lifetime. Nathan publishes material that is supplementary to textbooks; for example, small newspapers in English with real news, for use by French students studying English. I worked on one of these for several years, and watched it grow from nothing into a thriving sub-sub-division - and I say that because this was only one tip of a very large iceberg.

Regions

While the Academie Française, supreme guardian of the French language, issues edits banning crude foreign words (mostly anglo-saxon) from public notices, such as advertising, in a heroic effort to save the French, or rather, to force the invention of new words such as 'logiciel' (for the vulgar 'software'); Breton written and spoken, thrives in Brittany and the Langue d'Oc flourishes in Occitaine - around Bordeaux - and some of these far-from-dead languages were presented by some of the nearly 400 'regional' publishers at the salon.

 Occitan Stand

Authors signing

Cartoonist

The 15 publishers from Ireland no doubt assisted, as more than a few of these publish in Gaelic - which is a near cousin to Breton - which accounts for a special affinity between the region of Brittany and that other republic out there in the Atlantic.

Revues

This is the area of 'lit' publishing solely for 'lit's sake' and there were just over 100 stands featuring several hundred titles, in addition to about a hundred that were American - to go with the general US theme this year.

Sylvia Beach was remembered for founding Shakespeare and Company, originally located at 12, rue de l'Odeon - and for first publishing James Joyce's Ulysses in 1922. Readings were given throughout the duration of the salon in the Espace Sylvia Beach.

Live Authors

There nothing that sells books like having an author personally sign your new copy, so the publishers enticed 800 of their bread and butter winners, to pump up the sales. As I was passing the large Gallimard stand I chanced upon one of these events, and caught two live authors in the act. Writers of crime fiction - the 'Serie Noir' - were Jean-Claude Izzo (on the right), signing 'Total Khéops' and Maurice Dantec signing 'Les Racines du Mal.'

Live Cartoonist

Long-time readers will recognize Jean-François Batellier, the cartoonist that I wrote about in one of my first reports for the Paris Pages, a year ago. I found Jean-François on the stand of his publisher, Hermé, by accident - looking for 'Marianne' - again; this year signing and selling his cartoon albums to his faithful fans and selling individual original cartoons and copies.

The crises in the press for freelance cartoonists and illustrators has hardly lessened since last year and Jean-François continues to publish and distribute many of his own works, at his own expense and risk. After 25 years in the business of self-creativity, he can hardly join a team in a multimedia factory environment. Between trips to book fairs and cartoon festivals, he now lives in Auvers sur Oise, the town where Vincent Van Gogh died.

European Union

The European Union was represented by a fair-sized stand on the same 'avenue of law' of the salon as the Assemblée Nationale and the Sénate. As sort of the co-coordinator of community-wide information, the European Union is publishing database material on CD-ROMs, most notably 'Cordis' a European collection of research and development information.

There is a permanent information and resource centre in Paris, located at the base of the Grande Arche at La Défence, which is worth a visit.

Although not online at the salon itself, the EU can be reached via Internet: telnet echo.lu or http://www.cordis.lu/

Musicora

This is a separate salon, taking up about a third of Hall 1, on the east side. It runs annually and concurrently with the book salon, and the entry price is good for both salons.

Musicora is devoted to non-electric musical instruments and written sheet music. It is a shame to put it in here at the tail-end of everything, because it deserves a complete report of its own. In addition to the well-known manufacturers, many small producers are featured with their mostly hand-made wares. These range from flutes to antique-looking, but brand new older sorts of pianos.

As well as a great many salon visitors trying out incredible numbers of violins or pianos, all at once, there are organized and scheduled mini-concerts throughout the salon's run. It is a good complement to the books at the other end of the hall.


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